Merrill Beth Nisker (born November 11, 1966), better known by her stage name Peaches, is a Canadian electronic musician and performance artist who lives in Berlin, Germany. Her songs are noted for disregarding traditional gender norms and their use of sexually explicit lyrics. She plays her own instruments for her songs, programs her own electronic beats, and produces her own albums.
Her songs have been featured in movies such as Mean Girls, Waiting..., Jackass Number Two, My Little Eye, and Lost in Translation. Her music has also been featured on television shows such as Lost Girl, The L Word, Ugly Betty, South Park, 30 Rock and has been used for the promotion of Dirt. Peaches performed guest vocals on Pink's album Try This, on the song "Oh My God," on the Chicks on Speed album 99 Cents, on the song "We Don't Play Guitars" and recently on Christina Aguilera's 2010 album Bionic, on the song "My Girls" (which was produced and co-written with Le Tigre) and in the film Drive Angry with Nicolas Cage.
Born Merrill Beth Nisker in Toronto, Ontario, she attended a private Jewish school where her classes were taught half in English and half in Hebrew. Nisker was a class clown, who "wasn't particularly smart. I was interested in creative performance stuff, but that turned out to be difficult for me because it was all so structured," she told Kitty Empire of The Observer.
Before she became Peaches, Nisker was a music and drama teacher at Associated Hebrew Schools of Toronto.
1990-99: Mermaid Cafe, Fancypants Hoodlum, the Shit:
During the early 1990s, Nisker was part of folk trio Mermaid Cafe. The name was taken from the Joni Mitchell song "Carey". She later released her first album, Fancypants Hoodlum, under the name Merrill Nisker in 1995, and subsequently developed the style and persona that would take her to international fame as Peaches. In 1995, she started the Shit, a noisy four-piece combo with Chilly Gonzales (a.k.a. Jason Beck), bassist Sticky (later of Weeping Tile and Music Maul), and Dominique Salole (a.k.a. Mocky). Their absurd, highly sexual rock music was a harbinger for what Nisker would become, as it was during this time that she adopted the Peaches name. The Peaches moniker is taken from the Nina Simone song "Four Women" where Simone screams at the end, "My name is Peaches!" In Toronto, before rising to fame, she was a roommate of fellow recording artist Feist. Feist worked the back of the stage at Peaches' shows, using a sock puppet and calling herself "Bitch Lap Lap". The two also toured together in England from 2000-2001, staying with Justine Frischmann of Elastica and M.I.A. M.I.A. went on to video document Peaches' 2000 US tour and made clothes for the musician, while Peaches inspired M.I.A. to use the Roland MC-505 in her own compositions.
2000-02: The Teaches of Peaches:
After creating a six-track EP, Lovertits, Peaches moved to Berlin, Germany. While visiting her old friend Jason Beck, who was enjoying modest European success as Chilly Gonzales in his new home base of Berlin, Peaches landed a one-night gig. On the merits of that show alone, Berlin's Kitty-Yo label signed her on the spot. The label offered her the chance to record a new album, The Teaches of Peaches, back home in Toronto, and the already-completed Lovertits EP was released in the summer of 2000. The full-length album The Teaches of Peaches, was released that fall.
Peaches appeared on the British TV show Top of the Pops, but her performance was deemed too racy to be aired.
Nisker signed to a European contract by Sony following the release of The Teaches of Peaches. She later made a big-budget video for the song "Set It Off", in which she sat in a locker room as her pubic and armpit hair grew to Rapunzel length. Sony subsequently dropped her. "Now they want their money back," Peaches said.
In 2001, Nisker's 34AA bust was one of the first female busts cast by famous 1960s groupie Cynthia Plaster Caster, who was better known for making molds of male rockers' genitalia.
In 2002, Peaches appeared in "Hideous Man", a short film directed by John Malkovich. The short was created as a showcase for clothing designed by Bella Freud, and featured the poetry of Gary Sinise.
In 2003, Peaches released her second album Fatherfucker on XL/Kitty-Yo after years of touring and opening for artists like Marilyn Manson and Queens of the Stone Age. She once again wrote and programmed all of her album's music herself. The single "Kick It", which features Iggy Pop, Peaches described to Rolling Stone as "more about rock 'n' roll than sex."
For her album Fatherfucker, Peaches was nominated in the "Outstanding Music Artist" category for the 15th GLAAD Media Awards along with Rufus Wainwright, Meshell Ndegeocello, Junior Senior, and Bitch and Animal, but lost to Rufus Wainwright.
2006-08: Impeach My Bush:
For her third album, 2006's Impeach My Bush, Peaches enlisted guest musicians Joan Jett, Greg Kurstin, Josh Homme, Samantha Maloney, Beth Ditto, Feist, Dave Catching, Brian O'Connor and Radio Sloan to perform on several of the tracks.
The Herms (short for hermaphrodites) were formed in spring 2006 as Peaches' live backing band. They played at both small and large venues with sex and sex-related themes as the "shock factor" for the audience. "Herms" is also a reference to 1970s duo Peaches & Herb and the blending of the words 'her' and 'him'. Peaches and Herms was the opening act for Nine Inch Nails and Bauhaus during the second half of their 2006 summer U.S. tour.
In August 2006, Peaches posed for an anti-seal culling advertisement campaign created by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called "Fur is Dead". The advertisement featured an image of Peaches juxtaposed with an image of a baby seal being clubbed, with the words "Canada's Club Scene Sucks" printed over the image of Peaches.
In 2007 Peaches posed as a model for an advertisement by the Vestal Watches company. The advertisement was shown in The Fader magazine.
Peaches was nominated for her album "Impeach My Bush" in the category "Outstanding Music Artist" at the 18th GLAAD Media Awards along with the Ditty Bops, Owen Pallett, Pet Shop Boys, and the Scissor Sisters, but lost to the Scissor Sisters.
Peaches played live at the Parklife Festival in Australia, in the fall of 2008, with her now current German live band Sweet Machine.
2009-present: I Feel Cream:
Her fourth album I Feel Cream, was released on May 4, 2009 in Europe, and May 5 in North America. The first single from the album is a double A-side of "Talk to Me" and "More". Peaches enlisted some of her contemporaries to co-produce a number of tracks including Simian Mobile Disco, Soulwax, Digitalism and Shapemod. Long time friend and collaborator Gonzales co-wrote some of the songs on I Feel Cream and Shunda K (the voice of Yo Majesty) featured on the track "Billionaire".
Peaches has been noted for her stage costumes and flamboyant sense of style. Her looks are often both nostalgic and futuristic; aggressive and glamorous; and push the limits of gender identity. Peaches and her band Sweet Machine wear costumes from a variety of designers but most notably she works closely with stylist/designer Vaughan Alexander, celebrity hairstylist Charlie Le Mindu, and young American fashion designer, John Renaud.
In 2010, Peaches and backing band Sweet Machine once again toured Australia performing at the sold out Big Day Out festivals and at a series of sideshows. Peaches was supported on this tour by Shunda K who performed their collaboration "Billionaire" at BDO festivals and at the sideshows, and was also the opening act at the sideshows.
On March 14, 2010, Peaches won the 'Electronic Artist of the Year' award at the 10th Annual Independent Music Awards held in Toronto, Canada.
In March 2010, the copyright owners of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar denied Peaches permission to perform her one-woman version of it that she was planning to stage in Berlin. After receiving the attention of several media outlets, Peaches successfully negotiated with those rights-holders, and the musical was performed on March 25-27 at Berlin's HAU1.Gonzales accompanied Peaches on piano.Travis Jeppesen stated in his review for Artforum, "Not only did Peaches set it off, she managed to surprise us all by showing off an expansive vocal range, a musician's natural sensitivity to the dynamics of Andrew Lloyd Webber's score, and an emotive prowess that is rarely if ever displayed in her own, less holy, music."
Peaches appeared in a film called Ivory Tower, which also includes spots from Feist, Chilly Gonzales, Tiga and Gonzales' mother. Peaches stars as Marsha, a performance artist engaged to a man named Thaddeus (Tiga). Things get complicated when her ex, Hershall (Gonzales) comes back into her life. The movie is set in Toronto and was shot over 13 days in late Winter/early Spring 2010. It was co-written by Gonzales and Céline Sciamma (who directed/wrote Water Lilies), was directed by Adam Traynor and produced by Nicolas Kazarnia. Ivory Tower was given a limited theatrical release in August 2010.
In May 2010, Christina Aguilera announced that Peaches was among the collaborators on her fourth studio album Bionic. Peaches is featured on a track called "My Girls". The song was co-written and produced by Le Tigre.
On August 30, 2010, Peaches released a new single titled "Jonny". The single is part of a tribute series to Alan Vega from the band Suicide. Other musicians who have released tribute singles as part of the series include The Horrors, Primal Scream, Klaxons and Bruce Springsteen.
Peaches also appears as a guest musician on R.E.M.'s 2011 release Collapse into Now, contributing vocals to the song "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter".
Gender identity is one theme of Peaches' music, often playing with traditional notions of gender roles representation. Her lyrics and live shows consciously blur the distinction between male and female; for example, she appears on the cover of her album Fatherfucker with a full beard. When asked if she had chosen the title for shock value, she commented:
Why do we call our mothers motherfuckers? Why do we stub our toe and say, "Aww motherfucker!"? What is a motherfucker? ... We use it in our everyday language, and it's such an insanely intense word. I'm not one to shy away from these obscene terms that we actually have in our mainstream. Motherfucker is a very mainstream word. But if we're going to use motherfucker, why don't we use fatherfucker? I'm just trying to be even to both sexes.
She disputes accusations of "penis envy", preferring the term "hermaphrodite envy, since "there is so much male and female in us all."
Age has been another theme of Peaches' music in recent years. The lyrics from several songs from her 2009 album I Feel Cream tackle the issue of age, including Trick or Treat ("you lick my crow's feet"), Show Stopper ("Never mind my age, it's like we're breaking out of a cage") and Mommy Complex. Peaches has criticized ageism directed against her, telling the New York Daily News that "I'm going to make aging cool".
Peaches lists John Waters, Cindy Sherman, Paul McCarthy and the films Tron, Grease, Liquid Sky and Phantom of the Paradise as inspiration for the visuals in her live shows.